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Rhetorical And Fallacies In The Article “The Media Violence Myth” By Richard Rhodes

1410 words - 6 pages

In 2000, Pulitzer-winning journalist Richard Rhodes published an article titled “The Media Violence Myth,” through the “American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression,” a liberal establishment dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment right to free speech. Despite coming from a background plagued with violence and abuse, Rhodes has studied nuclear history and weapons use for over 20 years and has developed a unique opinion about the media’s effect on public violence. In “The Media Violence Myth,” Rhodes aims to convince his readers that the media does not contribute to violence through its portrayal. He attempts this in discrediting his key opponent, Dave Grossman, through ad hominem, red herrings, and violent diction. These strategies are likely effective for his left-leaning, first amendment-protecting primary audience, which would get caught up in the emotion of the arguments. However, for the more skeptical, moderate audience, these rhetorical devices are likely inefficient.
Rhodes uses the ethical fallacy “ad hominem” in attempt to quickly discredit Grossman, his key antagonist, and therefore boost his own credibility. For example, he describes Grossman in the very first sentence of his article as looking “a little goofy in a bad suit,” while later praising his supporter, David Sohn, as “a bold, savvy psychologist.” It is clear that in employing this tactic Rhodes is attempting to decrease Grossman’s credibility; in placing this judgment in the first sentence of the essay he is trying to make a vivid first impression, one that will stay with his readers through the last page. The image of an ill-dressed man causes the audience to cast negative judgments that will taint anything the subject has to say. On the other hand, Rhodes portrays Sohn, a man of views similar to his own, as being “bold” and “savvy,” qualities that are valued in society. In pointing out that Sohn serves as a psychologist, Rhodes demands respect for this learned individual, whom he insinuates is on a higher level of credibility than the average man in a bad suit. In doing so Rhodes attempts to boost his audience’s trust in Sohn, which would in turn increase Rhodes’ own authority in the eyes of the readers because the two are in agreement regarding the subject of violence in the media. To the left-leaning, primary audience, this strategy is most likely to be effective. Because the affiliated readers already scorn those who support censorship, the idea of Grossman being less aesthetically (and thus logically) sensible than Sohn acts as an affirmation of their beliefs; Rhodes is jumping on the bandwagon and giving his audience what it wants to hear.
However, a secondary audience would most likely question Rhodes’ use of ad hominem as a rhetorical strategy. The description of Grossman as “a little goofy in a bad suit” acts as a personal judgment and has nothing to do with the arguments regarding media violence; how a person looks likely does not affect the...

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